Last month’s newsletter covered techniques for maintaining motivation for change. This month, let's look at examples of how to use these techniques for organizing and overcoming hoarding.

As we saw last month, factors that support motivation for change include:

Clarity about why the change matters, why you want it, and the difference it will make in your life

• Organizing your home or office environment to encourage carrying out your resolutions, make doing the right thing as easy as possible, and make doing the wrong thing as hard as possible

• Arranging support to get through low moments, build you up, and cheer you on

Reminders to keep your desire for change foremost in your mind so that the distractions of everyday life do not undermine your goals

Planning your activities to support the desired change


Clarity is perhaps your greatest tool for maintaining motivation. It is really difficult to make any change without a high level of clarity about why it matters. Chances are, when you don't feel like doing something you know you need to do, it's because you have not thought enough about the consequences of not doing it or honestly projected them far enough into the future, or maintained awareness of the positive impact of the change on your life. Having a list of the benefits of your chosen change to consult will lift you up when you wonder whether the effort and sacrifice is worth the trouble. Ambivalent times are inevitable, and creating new mental grooves and behaviors is tiring, so we need to anticipate these low moments and be prepared with an exhaustive list of the benefits of change to prevent backsliding. Of course, written lists are much more powerful than mere mental ones.

* Clarity about organizing means understanding all the ways that organizing will help you, make things easier, enable you to function better, and prevent problems.

* Clarity about overcoming hoarding means understanding the risks and motives of hoarding, the thoughts and emotions that perpetuate your hoarding behaviors, and how your life will change for the better when you stop hoarding. Envisioning the different life that becomes possible when hoarding stops is needed because little of that possible life can be seen or experienced while buried in belongings. Participating in 12-step groups with people already in recovery can be helpful; they can provide a vision of a potential future that someone who is actively hoarding would have difficulty imagining.

* Putting your list of motivators where you will see it frequently and easily helps too. If you do not like putting such a list on your walls, try putting it on your nightstand where you will see it first thing in the morning or in your planner, using it as a bookmark for books you are currently reading, or recording it on your phone and playing it back often. Sticky notes to remind you to check your motivators list in places where you can’t miss seeing them are good too.


Arrange your physical setting, whether at home or in your office, to encourage acting on good habits and to discourage bad ones. Some examples of ways to do this are:

* Put things needed to organize your things as close as possible to where you would do this work, such as bringing in necessary boxes, bags, or file folders and papers to be sorted by where you want to sit down before allowing yourself to sit. Sorting papers is a great activity to do while on the phone, watching TV, exercising, or just recovering from your day. Do a list of these opportunities.

* Eliminate items or activities that are part of hoarding behavior, such as trips to stores where you will be tempted to acquire, browsing catalogs, or reading advertisements.

* Move undermining items, such as games or magazines, away from areas where they might distract from your work. Save those for when you are done. Put the TV on a timer or give yourself a rule that you cannot turn it on until your task is finished (unless it serves as helpful company that keeps you on track).


* Phone and e-mail buddy lists of people that you can call for support may help for both organizing and hoarding.

* Most Internet support for organizing consists of websites, blogs, and newsletters such as this one. There are online 12-step groups and meetings for hoarders that aid recovery; these online meetings are especially important for people living in areas that do not have frequent or well-established CLA (Clutterers Anonymous) meetings.

* Exchange sessions where you visit a friend who needs organizing or hoarding-clearing help and s/he visits you can be invaluable. You will both see solutions to each other’s problems much easier than you can for your own.


A variety of frequently changed or updated reminders will be most helpful.

* Books on organizing or hoarding can be inspirational even when you disagree with their approach or methods, because they keep you focused on the goal.

* Signs or sticky notes in areas where you spend time, where you might be tempted to follow the old behavior, or where you need reminders to do the right thing are always good. Examples might be putting a note where you might toss the mail instead of sorting it, a sticky on the TV to remind you to sort while watching, or a sign to remind you of your daily goal.


* Listing the current element of whatever behavioral change you want to create on your daily to-do list is a great way to stay on track. The secrets to making this approach work are: 1) each new daily behavior should doable in 15-minutes, such as 15 minutes of relaxing, filing, sorting, or clearing, 2) only give yourself one new activity per week or month (depending upon your tolerance for change). As your tolerance and consistency improve, you can increase the time for doing the new activity, but continue listing on your daily to-do list until it is dependable.

 * Accomplishment lists are important to recognize what you have done and to prevent being discouraged by seeing how much remains to be done. Resting on your laurels too soon can stop further accomplishment, but some recognition is essential to make you believe that change is possible.

 * Frequent check-ins - any list is only useful when it is checked. It is not enough to make a list - it must be used to choose the next task or activity each time you finish one. If checking your to-do list often is a new behavior, a timer to make sure that you do so frequently, perhaps hourly if you change activities often or do many short tasks, would be good.

What strategies can you find to support changes you want to make?

© Gloria Valoris, 2013

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